President Obama actually said some good things at the National Prayer Breakfast.
He spoke of the many times he – as President – paused to reflect on Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous and oft repeated prayer, “Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength.” He said as well – and wonderfully – that, “Our job is not to ask God to respond to our notion of truth – our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments. And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him and have some humility in that process.” The President adds that we should – on that account – speak up against those who misuse God’s Name to justify oppression. In this, he is right on the money; one can only wish he had left it there.
Reality is what Barack Obama said applies uniquely to followers of Yahweh and His Son Yeshua – Jesus. His word is revealed in the Bible, not in our agenda – however praiseworthy that agenda may be – and not all agendas pursued by Christians are of equal value. (The Rev. Fred Phelps and any number of televangelists come to mind.) Repentant believers know we are staggering and stumbling towards Him; our very staggering excites His sympathy like no other gift. His strength is indeed perfected (2 Corinthians 12:9) in our weakness. There is only one God; He is worshipped under multiple names, but He is knowable and separable from the list of pretenders in terms of His attributes, His behavior, and His directives.
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This Yahweh – ‘Io, as He is known to ancient Hawaiians; Sila, as He is known to the Inuit of Alaska and Siberia; and Yah, as he is to many Native Americans of the Lower Forty-eight – creates for no other reason than love. He sacrifices His Son for the redemption of all mankind – all mankind – and calls on His followers to live lives of sacrifice for each other as the best path to abundant life. He freely forgives sin and calls on us to do likewise. He never demands obedience – although He has surely earned it – preferring to stand at the door and knock. He says His revelation is not about things to know but about a Person to know, and He declares we can have as many do-overs in this world as we need–but in the next, the jury is in by the time we arrive. He stands in polar opposition to alternative revelations that deny freedom of choice in favor of karma, or say we are the result of a cosmic accident – as it is in most eastern religions. He does not call His people to force conquests, conversions, or vengeance on those who do not respect Him or His dictates – as it is in Islam. Yahweh is as recognizable as He is unique.
Yet the President – in a display of monumental ignorance at best – went on to call out American Christians. “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was (sic) justified in the name of Christ.” Reality is that Christians have exhibited aberrant behavior in the cases cited by the President. We do remain sinners, and we continue in the need of repentance. But aberrant is not normative.
The far greater reality is that nowhere can there be found – in the sacred texts or the tradition of the Church – even the remotest justification for these practices. The Inquisition flew in the face of Christianity – even as it was known in the Middle Ages – and the Crusades were in response to Muslim aggression that took the Holy Land by bloody conquest and later invaded Europe. In their conquests and subjugation of infidels, the Muslims were simply following the dictates of their religion to set up their worldwide Caliphate by force.
Another greater reality is that when Christians across America saw the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow, they rose as one to condemn these perversions. When Abraham Lincoln called on his countrymen in 1863 to observe a day of prayer, fasting, and humiliation over our many sins – and especially for condoning slavery – the tide of war turned toward victory in less than two months. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 came on the heels of the Christians – black and white – who marched in prayer from Selma to Montgomery under the truncheons of the segregationists. Their suffering was broadcast by television into the living rooms of ordinary Americans, and the resulting groundswell of support was immediate and tremendous.
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Praise God for the untold millions of Muslims who seek only to live in peace with their neighbors and are even beginning – in places such as Norway – to speak out against the brutality of Islamo-fascists. Sadly enough, history shows these pacific attitudes evaporate – or are purged – wherever Islam attains majority strength.
Truth is we Christians – and for that matter we Jews – serve a Lord whose clarion call has not changed since He wrote Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” There is no legitimate space – the operant term being legitimate – in such doctrine for honor killings, beheadings, or forcing our faith on others, much less burning people alive. No other religion can make such a claim – at least not without blushing, and certainly not in truth.
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